Journal Entry: August 10, 2009

I really only listen to music when I’m in my car, driving back and forth to work, so I’ve never developed very refined tastes. For the most part, I listen to hip hop stations. One thing you encounter with pop radio stations like that is a pretty small selection of music with heavy repeats. At any given time, there’s probably a library of six to ten hip hop songs getting played on the radio. The turnover is pretty quick, but you’re just not going to hear anything from the back catalog.

I’ve got the presets on my radio ordered by my preference (with the sixth and final preset dedicated to NPR). This morning on the drive in to work a commercial came on my number one station, and I punched all the way through to five before I found music playing. Five happens to be a country station that advertises its selection as “today’s top country.”

The song on the radio was Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” which is a song I really liked back when it first came out seventeen years ago. That’s today’s top country. I guess they’re ruling out Johnny Cash’s old stuff, and anything by Hank Williams, Sr.

Still, after that song went off I got to hear one called “God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy.” That one made me smile.

Last Friday I got off work a little bit early (as I often do on Fridays), so that left me a couple hours at home before I was supposed to head over to B– and E–‘s place. I spent it edging the yard.

See, we’ve only got an electric weed eater, and it’s the cheap sort with the stupid flimsy plastic string that’s constantly snapping and requiring field maintenance, so I really only edge the yard about once a year — when the grass along the front curb is hanging majestically out over the street and providing willowy shade to cars that pass beneath. Then I gear up for an afternoon of edging, and spend forty-five minutes hacking through the trunks of the fescue.

So I did that last Friday. It was hot Friday, and I did this around four in the afternoon, so just all around poor planning. Still, the yard looks pretty good now.

After that I got cleaned up and headed over to B– and E–‘s place, where we discussed dinner plans and (far more important) drinking plans. I floated the idea of some O. G. Diddies (the same vodka, grape, lemonade drink that we all learned to rue last Poker Night), and B– and E– were game, so we stopped by the grocery store on our way to pick up the pizza.

The drinks were a hit, the pizza was delicious, and while we were enjoying both, B– broke out the new Wii Sports Resort. I watched them play some (because I was ravenous), and then when E– tried throwing a Frisbee, I just had to try it out. I did about as well at that as I would’ve done in real life (which is to say, very poorly), so that left me impressed with the hardware.

Then I tried out the Samurai Showdown mode of swordfighting, which has you charging into a horde of sword-wielding Miis who surround you and then politely attack you one at a time. In true Samurai-movie fashion, you get to mow them down en masse. So much fun. I wore myself out playing that.

Then I decided to try out the archery mode, and had a lot of fun with that, too. Then B– challenged me to some pick-up basketball, and I did about as well as you’d expect. That is to say, I lost. Badly. I didn’t score a single point. Yay.

After that we turned off the Wii and turned on Tropic Thunder because, even though B– and E– had already seen it, they’d always wanted to see it with me. How cool is that? Halfway through I started pointing out that it’s really just a remake of The Three Amigos (and, at last, to audience familiar enough with The Three Amigos that they could actually get this), and of course that knowledge blew their minds. Fun stuff.

Anyway, after the movie we spent some time talking, so it was 2:15 before I got home. Somehow I managed not to be a complete idiot RE: consumption of alcohol, but I still didn’t feel like going to sleep when I got home, so I stayed up for another hour or two playing Fallout.

Saturday morning I woke up at 10:30 and mowed the lawn, which took about twice as long as expected because we’ve spent most of the last week with high temperatures and heavy rain, so the grass has flourished. Anyway, I got that done, got cleaned up, and somehow it was already time to head to Wichita. I packed in a hurry, cleaned up the house just a little bit so T– wouldn’t have to come home to total chaos, and then ran up to Edmond to pick up my brother-in-law.

I got to drive the new Vue, which was sweet.

On the way north, we listened to the Lonely Island CD, and then spent an hour and a half discussing the premise for Burn Jump, and just how much effort I was going to spend appeasing the fickle interests of general relativity, causation, and basic physics. Conclusion: not much.

We got to T–‘s house just after four, and after a happy reunion with wives and baby daughters, we talked with Mom and Dad and the Charboneaus for a while, then headed to the church for “dinner and entertainment.”

I rode with Mom and Dad, and we spent most of the drive there discussing social anxiety disorder and specific management techniques. Then we showed up and I almost immediately forgot everything we’d talked about. The fellowship hall was packed, and there were so many half-remembered faces in the crowd, and really all I wanted to do was leave.

Dinner was a catered spread featuring sliced brisket, and as I filed through the line to fill my plate, I talked to four or five old family friends. Then halfway down the table, with my back turned to the tables full of people, I was suddenly overcome. My head started spinning, I couldn’t breathe, and I thought for sure I was going to pass out. I did as Dad had suggested, focusing on calming breaths while I made my way to the end of the line, and then discovered that Mom had picked out a table in the far back corner. So that helped a little. By the time I sat down, I felt almost normal again.

That was really the worst of it. Some friends stopped by our table to say hi, and a couple of them sat down with us, but with my sister’s family and my parents, we had the table mostly full already. After dinner everyone headed to the auditorium for a special presentation of all the former ministers (which included my Dad). I stayed out in the foyer with my sister and brother-in-law for most of that, though, flipping through some photo albums they’d put out. Most of the pictures were of my time in the youth group, and they were rich with memories. Honestly, those thirty minutes looking through photos made the whole thing worthwhile.

I did finally join Mom and Dad in the auditorium in time for a poorly-conceived Westlink Church of Christ History Jeopardy, which was more entertaining by its floundering than by design. I don’t mean that in a mean-spirited way, because the hosts took it all in stride, and Gary (the pulpit minister for as long as I’ve known Westlink) has always had a charming knack for laughing off little mistakes.

When we got in the car to head home Dad asked me about my experience, and I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed looking through the photos, because I have such a poor memory of my time in high school. On a whim, he offered to drive by the old school (it being just a mile out of the way). I’d done that a few times on my visits to the west side of town, but I’d never thought to actually turn onto the campus. Dad did, and by some strange fortune the gates were actually open so we could drive right up to the school.

As I’ve discussed social anxiety more and more recently, the question has often come up of when I first started struggling with it. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a good answer. That brief tour Saturday night, though, confirmed suspicion it was firmly in place by high school. As we approached the building, I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s weird how familiar this all is!” And then as we got to the point where you’d actually turn toward the parking places, pick a spot, and then go in to classes, I was suddenly overwhelmed. Worse than when I was standing in line at church, I felt a crushing weight on my chest and my vision darkened. My heart started racing, as Dad casually swung past the parking spaces, up to the curb, and then turned back toward the exit.

Halfway there, after we’d left all the buildings behind, I finally found enough air to say weakly, “Oh, that was weird.” I paused for a moment, collected my thoughts, and then tried to explain to them what it had felt like. Mom and Dad are both trained counselors now, so they were interested and able to offer insight. Dad said I’d encounter that other places, too, because physical places tended to have strong emotional memory associated with them. That was easily the worst I’d ever experienced, though.

Still, by the time we turned onto Tyler and left the campus behind, I felt fine.

Sunday morning T– woke up early and took AB up to church for the pre-class coffee and donuts, figuring that she should be there for that since she’d skipped dinner Saturday night. I stayed home, slept in, and went with the Charboneaus in time for service at 10:30.

The service was a pretty good one, with some fantastic song-leading and a true-to-form emotional sermon from Gary. Afterward they had a big balloon release in memory of the Westlink family members who had gone on before. We’d intended to skip that, slip away during the confusion and have a quiet little family lunch, but when my sister went to get the little ones out of kids’ church, she got trapped in the crowd. And when I went in search of my errant sister, I did too. That turned out to be a lucky break, though, because I got to see Kelly Sullivan there. She’s a Mackey now, and I keep track of her on Facebook, but it was still nice to see an old friend. I also spoke with Serena Dawson and Loni Jo Butler and Steve Hutchins on Saturday night, and that’s pretty much it for other youth group alumni. Everybody else was family friends.

Anyway, after that we slipped away during the confusion, and had a quiet little family lunch at Carlos O’Kelly’s. Then Mom and Dad headed home, and my sister and her family came back to OKC, and T– and I ran to her parents’ place to get packed up and then we followed shortly after. We got home around five, order a pizza, and spent the evening on the couch, getting caught up with work on our laptops while AB played with puzzles and watched Shrek for the first time.

It was a busy weekend. Good, though. Better than I expected.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.